Ramez and Alaa Yassin (center) spend a lot of time at the Andover store. They are pictured here with the Andover Green Life staff.
By Laurie Gordon This is the first of a three-oart series about local health stores. ANDOVER-Green Life Market urges people to educate themselves about what they put into their bodies, what they use on the bodies of themselves and their children and what chemicals they have around the house. The family-owned business has several locations with one having opened up in Andover in 2016. Since then, the Market has been thriving, promoting a healthier lifestyle in our area. Said Ameer Yassin, the Stores' COO, “We are not a franchise but a family owned business. I am very fortunate that I run this business with my parents, my brothers and our wives. Every member of our family has a specific role and we work together to bring affordable health and knowledge of wellness to the communities in which our businesses exist. ” He added, “Each member of my family has had an important role in helping with success of our markets. My mother and father owned a business for many years and have supported us with both their time and resources to bring this dream to fruition. Myself and my brothers (Ramez and Murad), along with my wife (Brittany) and Ramez’s wife (Alaa) work daily to ensure our markets are meeting the needs of our community. I would also like to use this opportunity to acknowledge the staff in all of our stores. We are very fortunate to have such a knowledgeable staff working passionately to inspire our customers to live a healthier lifestyle. Yassin said, “The business originally started with myself and my father purchasing a health food store in Butler New Jersey. We were both customers, my father was fighting Lyme’s disease and I was transitioning away from sports nutrition and into focusing on health and longevity. When the business became available we felt that as customers we had an advantage into what people were looking for. As our business began to grow we recognized the appreciation our customers had for our products and services. We’ve met many people who have inspired us with their stories and success with natural and holistic living. These success stories inspired us to expand to our second location.” He said of the store's philosophy, “As a community/member store we try to focus on the needs of our members above all else. We want every customer to shop with confidence without ever having to worry about the quality of the ingredients. We are dedicated to providing a selection of products that are free of artificial colors, sweeteners or preservatives. We are also committed to avoiding any products containing commercially grown GMO crops unless they are non-GMO project verified (alfalfa, apples, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets).” “We commit to a strict standard of 100% certified organic produce except when local (organically grown) items are available,” Yassin said. “While many health food stores only offer conventional food service items we remain committed to organic produce throughout our entire store. Our health and beauty aid products are free of artificial fragrances, dyes, phthalates and parabens. In our wellness department we support brands that do third party testing, use proven ingredients, have a good value for the customer. We don’t stop at the promise of the companies we carry but dig deeper into the efficacy of each product, the quality/sourcing of the raw material and the extraction methods used to create the final product.” Some of the certifications Green Life Market looks for when sourcing products include: USDA Organic, Non GMO, Fair Trade, Cruelty Free, Vegan, Gluten Free, Nut Free and other more specific ones for people with certain diets or allergies. The membership works as follows: The store charges a one-time fee of $99 for a lifetime membership (there is no annual renewal fee). Members receive percent 0 off groceries, produce, health and beauty aids, and vitamins (up to 40% for select brands). They also offer additional savings once a month on member appreciation day to show their appreciation for their members' support. On this day they offer coupons, live demos and a $50 gift card give away. Yassin said, “We truly feel that the membership allows us to be price competitive with Amazon, large chain stores and other internet giants while still being able to provide an educational and personal customer experience. It is with the constant support of our members that we are able to buy and sell healthy products at more affordable prices.” Yassin said. “The membership support also allows us to succeed as a local business and bring new jobs into our community and support our local economy. We encourage customers to purchase local products in our store as this furthers our goal of supporting local businesses. Of Green Life's products, Yassin said, “As the community continues to discover our store they will find that our product selection is constantly adapting to fit the needs of our customers. By educating ourselves on all the products offered in our industry we are confident that we are often the first place customers can find new and exciting brands. As customers venture into our wellness department they will be happy to find a large selection of quality supplements to fit their needs. Our wellness staff is there to help guide them to find the product that is right for them. We have a large selection of small independently owned companies products that we are very proud to carry and support such as Yeah Dawg vegan hot dogs (Brooklyn, NY), Healing Home Foods (Pound Ridge,NY), and Wild Leaf Active Teas from Sparta NJ. Lastly, we are very proud to offer a large selection of fermented foods, including kimchi, sauerkraut and even kombucha on tap.” The store's best sellers include some supplements such as CV Sciences CBD products, turmeric supplements and Vital Proteins collagen peptides. NuCo coconut wraps (in accordance with the popular Paleo diet), alkaline spring water, Banza 100% chickpea pasta and a wide variety of kombucha and other teas are among the most popular grocery items. The “Green Life” juice, PB&J Smoothie, homemade hummus, babaganoosh, and turkey burgers are all customer favorites that are made fresh daily in our kitchen. When it comes to pricing, Yassin said, “We understand that it is more expensive to buy organic and healthier products, that is why we created the membership program, to help make the journey to better health more affordable. I always believed that your health is an investment not an expense, however I also understand that people have budgets and can only afford certain organic items. For anyone who would like to shop healthier I would suggest joining the membership for the best savings or maybe start by avoiding GMO foods and buy organic (especially meat, dairy, produce and eggs) whenever possible. We also have about 1000 items on sale every month (membership not needed to get sale prices) and this can make buying organic/healthier options more affordable as well.” Yassin added, “I was a customer not too long ago and understand the added expense but after learning more about our food supply and the adulteration to our food I have made certain personal commitments to know what I am putting in my body. After buying a business in this industry I also know that organic products are more expensive for a reason. Farmers can produce a much larger quantity of crop if weeds and pests are eliminated. That being said I would rather pay a little extra if it means glyphosate (a chemical designed to kill weeds – the active ingredient in Round Up) was not sprayed on my food. Glyphosate is water soluble and the peel of a fruit does not protect it from chemicals, these chemicals get in the water and is absorbed by the food we consume to….. stay healthy? On top of that scientist have discovered ways to make certain crops “round up ready” meaning they don’t have to take the time to just spray the weeds, they can spray the whole field and only the food they plan to harvest for you survives.” “I think people should start by educating themselves about our food supply so they can make their own decisions,” Yassin said. “I would like Green Life to be a source of information for anyone who wants to learn more about our food supply, nutrition and how to be proactive about their health. We do our best to make eating healthy on the go as easy as possible. Customers can call in orders to be ready for pick up or to be delivered locally.” Green Life Market is located at 238 Newton Sparta Road, in Andover. Hours are Weekdays, 8 am to 9 pm, Saturday, 8 am to 8 pm, and Sunday 9 am to 6 pm.For further information, visit: https://www.greenlifemarket.com/ or phone the store at 973-512-3900.